New Bachman & Turner album a musical throwback
In June, Randy Bachman and Fred Turner took the stage at the Sweden Rock festival in Solvesborg, Sweden, on a bill with Guns N' Roses, Aerosmith and Slayer. Aside from a recent series of warmup gigs in small European clubs, it was one of the first situations in which Bachman and Turner shared a stage since the early '90s.
They didn't sound check. They didn't even line check. And they couldn't use their own gear. And as far as Bachman and Turner were concerned, the show was an unequivocal success.
"I was just brimming with electric sparks," Bachman recalled as the duo made a promotional stop in Toronto on Tuesday. "We had this energy about us. It was almost like a sci-fi movie, where you have this little glow around you. … And the audience kind of sensed it. BAM! We just hit them in the face. BAM, BAM! Song after song. … It was that amazing."
Indeed, that's the sort of positive energy swirling around Bachman and Turner as they prepare to release their first new studio album since 1984, Bachman & Turner, which drops Sept. 7. (The band, of course, will also be known as Bachman & Turner because of a legal dispute over the name Bachman-Turner Overdrive.)
Fans of the Winnipeg rockers' trademark blue-collar rock, delivered with a minimum of pretension, needn't worry that the intervening decades have altered the group's approach.
"I'm thrilled that people are saying this album sounds like it was supposed to be released in 1977," said Bachman. "That's what I was trying for. People, I don't think, want anything new from us. They want new material, but they don't want, you know, Fred doing a rap/hip-hop kind of thing.
"The great thing is, I think we sound like people expect us to sound."
New tunes inspired by past grooves
Turner calls chugging album opener Rollin' Along a follow-up to Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Roll on Down the Highway, which in turn inspired Bachman to funnel the groove of Ain't Seen Nothing Yet into new track That's What it Is.
An early listener of the album even told Bachman the strutting rocker Find Your Love was "the greatest Led Zeppelin song since Led Zeppelin." Obviously, he was flattered.
"What really inspired us early as we were putting together Bachman-Turner Overdrive in the early '70s was the simplicity of Creedence Clearwater Revival, the simplicity of the Stones, Zeppelin, Cream, that sort of thing," said Bachman, who is also host of Vinyl Tap on CBC Radio One, a show that combines his favourite music with personal reminiscences.
"This new Bachman-Turner album is sort of me going back to our favourite vibes.
"I won't try to disguise it."
Reuniting for another tour without releasing a new album, however, wasn't an option. Turner had retired several years ago and said he was perfectly content to stay that way (since quitting touring, he said, he "started taking care of his health" and shed around 100 pounds).
Seeds for the reunion were planted when Bachman approached Turner about singing on his solo album. Turner's take on Rock and Roll is the Only Way Out convinced Bachman that the two needed to make more music together.
"I didn't think that it would ever happen again," Turner conceded. "So it was quite a surprise to me. It's a great surprise. I mean, it's what I should be doing. It's terrific."
Modest expectations for older pair
Of course, the music industry has changed — even deteriorated — since the band was last active. As a result, they're keeping their expectations relatively modest.
"This is totally against all odds," Bachman said. "Do we think we can get any airplay? I don't know. It almost doesn't matter. We're doing what we were born to do.
"We just do it and hope that somebody out there likes it and buys the record and comes and sees us and we all have a good time amidst all the turmoil that the world is in."
But while the conditions of the industry couldn't be more different, the creative relationship between Turner and Bachman is much the way it always was.
"I don't think anything's different," Turner said. "I think there was a magic there when it happened back in the '70s, and it just hasn't gone.
"It's something that just works between us, it's like a chemical thing. Two things come together and it just naturally happens. So I don't think anything has changed."
Bachman and Turner say they've planned to continue working together for at least three years. At that point, they'll reassess and decide whether to continue.
Both men are 66 years old, and continuing past that point would mean playing into their 70s. For now, the idea doesn't seem altogether unappealing.
"I hope there's more music that's going to come together, that we're going to get a chance to do some more albums maybe," Turner said.
"It seems like people are going on longer and longer and playing into their older years. And possibly that's where we're going."